In 1989, David Imrie and Peter Harrison together with Cadogan Estates as partners created the Furniture Village. In 2001, Peter Harrison together with the management bought about 70 percent of Cadogan Estates stake. Furniture Village in 2002 expanded to North East England after buying three stores from Conroys as well as launching an upmarket London retail brand known as the London Furniture Company. Nonetheless, the London Furniture Company was not as successful as Furniture Village though and closed shop by 2005.
42 Stores and counting
The British furniture retailer has a presence across the UK with 42 stores. The first store was opened in 1989 in Abingdon. Furniture Village also has a Web Store that serves online buyers while its headquarters are in Slough. Essentially, the furniture retailer is United Kingdom’s largest furniture chain that’s privately owned. The store mostly targets the UK upper market for those moderately moneyed. Through their promotions, Furniture Village stresses more on quality rather than the cost of their furniture products, which essentially distinguishes them from competitors such as Courts and DFS.
As the Chief executive officer for Furniture Village, Peter Harrison was instrumental in creating the first store in 1989 near Oxford. Harrison is the president of the more than 42 outlets, the Furniture Village online store and the London’s Selfridges London Bed Company.
The company has a large stock of beds, cabinet furniture and sofas and has the ownership of the World of Leather title used in branding diverse sofas. Harrison owns a major stake in Furniture Village after leading another buyout from different investors, including the Bank of Scotland and currently owns a giant stake in the company. By 2011, the retailer was able to open additional shops as the Furniture Village sales hit £180.7 million. Currently, the main shareholders of the furniture store chain include Peter Harrison with a 64 percent, Ed Duggan with 10 percent, Eamon Wynne with 10 percent and others with 16 percent. The company had an operating profit of £2.8 million with a staff of 758 by 2011.
Harrison whose father worked in the air force became self-sufficient early on due to his boarding school upbringing, left civil engineering studies in the university to work as UDS. He later on joined Allders Department Stores as a management trainee and rose through the store’s ranks for 20 years to be a director. Harrison also worked for Gillows briefly before the idea to create Furniture Village was conceived in 1989. By 2013, the company had 752 employees and £173 million in turnover.
As a result of the success of Furniture Village, Harrison has received lots of tributes, among them winning six accolades as the Furniture Retailer of the Year and a personal award as the Director of the Year given by Deloitte in 2011 for the company’s success in the south of England. Harrison in 1999 was also a south Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.
Harrison claims he’s not money driven and appearing in Rich Lists is something he doesn’t think about. He doesn’t see Furniture Village on the stock market or getting private equity to back them up.
Eye on the future
With over 40 stores Furniture Village definitely has its eye on the future. This involves evolving with the times. For a business built on people, it means that the web is a lucrative element in its future endeavours. Harrison has confirmed that the company is working towards maximising on the internet and pushing online opportunities now and for the future. The company is already doing a lot of online videos; through Village Direct online they are also working on lending furniture.
The company is also working on ensuring they have opened 1-2 offline stores annually, a vision that keeps happening, such as the recent move by the company on moving Croydon store into a larger building with about 40,000 feet of space and new Ipswich stores that opened around 2013, including venturing into London and having a couple of stores opened there. The company also has the London Bed Company trading within Selfridges where their sales performance has been incredible.
Since little shops selling furniture doesn’t really work for the company they’re always working to have big managers, big shops, big advertising, and big budget among others to effectively meet their growth needs. In 2011, the furniture retailer had outgrown its central distribution, a 55,000 square feet central warehouse and went for a larger one of 100,000 square feet. The new larger central distribution also includes a development and learning academy for training purposes where the Furniture Village online team is also based.
In 2014, Furniture Village secured some investment to the tune of £6 million from BGF to help the furniture retailer to accelerate its expansion and growth, particularly new stores around the United Kingdom and bolster its tech investment to develop the burgeoning e-commerce wing of the company and enhance in-store customer experience.